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Lewis County emergency communications project on schedule and under budget

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LOWVILLE –– The emergency communications project is not only on schedule, but also under budget.

Robert N. Duclos, vice president of C&S Companies, the engineering firm for the project, presented an update Wednesday to members of the Lewis County Legislature, Undersheriff James Monnat, Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Robert Makenzie, Emergency Management Director and Fire Coordinator James Martin, IT Director Adam Zehr and Maintenance Supervisor Frank Archer.

The county has been working on the project for about three years. Mr. Duclos said construction is set to begin in September, if everything goes as planned.

“The overall game plan is to get most of the towers, the heavy infrastructure and construction work done this fall,” Mr. Duclos said. “Construction would start in September and we would like to have all seven towers installed and upright by the beginning of December of this year.”

There will be nine radio sites and one microwave-only site at the Lewis County Public Safety Building. There are three existing tower sites that will be used and seven new towers that will be built at different sites throughout the county.

The new sites will be in Harrisville, Turin, Crogan, Osceola, Montague, Public Safety Building and Lyonsdale. Existing towers are in Copenhagen and Lowville; another, owned by the New York Power Authority, is in the southern part of the county.

The Montague and Osceola sites, according to Mr. Duclos, are lagging behind from a site development standpoint. Mr. Duclos said there would be separate site construction contracts for these two sites.

For the Montague site, the county will purchase a parcel of land. Mr. Duclos said there was a meeting with town officials to start the process to purchase the land.

Mr. Duclos said these two tower sites probably will be worked on next spring.

Last year, the process of getting FCC licenses started. Mr. Duclos said the paging licenses have been cleared by the Federal Communications Commission and Canada. The radio licenses have been cleared and accepted by the FCC. Currently, the radio licenses are under review in Canada and Mr. Duclos said he expects to hear about these within the next 30 days.

The cost estimate presented to the board at the July meeting was $11.11 million. The county also received roughly $6 million in grant funding for the project.

“In reality if you add up all of the line items associated with the project, the projected cost is a little over $10.8 million,” Mr. Duclos said. “We are obviously actively doing our best to manage cost. Our hope and intent is to bring it in under $11.1 million.”

Mr. Duclos said there are still some realistic ways to further reduce the net cost of the project.

There is an opportunity to submit an application for a grant called Assistance to Firefighters. Mr. Duclos said the county is going to work with local fire departments to apply for funding under this grant. It would be for new equipment, such as pagers and radios, which the fire departments will need to use the new system. This part of the project is estimated at roughly $2.5 million.

“Obviously, we don’t know if the county will be successful in getting anything, whether it is $2.5 million or some portion thereof,” Mr. Duclos said. “Best-case scenario, the county could potentially get a full grant for the subscribers which would reduce the project cost by another $2.5 million.”

Mr. Duclos said another funding opportunity could be through the state police, who in the past have paid for or made contributions to interconnect various 911 systems.

“One thing we have always talked about here as part of this project is to link up the Lewis County 911 system with the Central New York 911 Consortium,” Mr. Duclos said. “In previous counties that I have worked with, the New York State Police have customarily paid for that connection, because they have a mutual interest in having access to that data network.”

Mr. Duclos said contributions from state police have ranged from $200,000 to $250,000. Mr. Duclos said the intent is to reach out to the state police to see if they have the interest and ability to pay for the connection.

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